In May, one of the policies that was discussed by the members of the BC Chamber of Commerce was “Engaging Business and Communities on Electoral Reform.” Submitted by the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, this policy laid out the position that “while the mechanics of how proportional representation would be implemented in British Columbia have yet to be clearly defined, it is clear that a shift to this model would fundamentally change the governance structure of the province with significant implications to the business community. Any changes to our electoral system that a) bring about substantive changes with unclear outcomes, and b) put us at variance with other provinces and/or territories must be carefully considered.” This policy, which was passed by the BC Chamber membership stated four recommendations, the first of which was that the Provincial Government should “Appoint a non-partisan examination of the likely outcomes of an alternative system prior to issuing a referendum . . . examining the implications of the proportional representation being considered, particularly, its implications on rural/urban divide.”
Since the referendum was announced, I have been on the lookout for events which would provide an opportunity for community members to learn more about the pros and cons of proportional representation. At the time of writing, the only event I’ve come across was the Royal British Columbia Museum’s September 26th presentation as part of the RBCM’s “It’s Complicated” series. While I’ve been approached by Fair Vote BC to hold an event, as Chambers of Commerce are non-partisan organizations, I was only prepared to consider an event if it represented both sides of the argument. And then, to be honest, we ran out of time to consider this further because of our responsibilities in advance of the municipal elections. As we are active in five WestShore municipalities, we are holding four all-candidates forums (the fifth one not being required as the Highlands Mayor and Council were acclaimed.)
I bring this up because I think the WestShore Chamber is not alone in having its time and attention devoted to the municipal elections, which has a knock-on effect on time and attention for proportional representation. As far as I can see, the policy adopted by the BC Chamber membership is no less valid than it was in May. No, we are not ready to make an informed decision on proportional representation.
Julie Lawlor is the Executive Director at the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.
You can reach her at email@example.com